Chapter 2 - A Tolerable Birthday
Harry sped through the air on his Firebolt,
enjoying the wind through his hair. He wasn’t playing Quidditch; he was
just flying, something he rarely did. But when he started to descend,
without really meaning to, towards an old, ivy-covered house on a hill,
he realized what was happening and whimpered in his sleep. He didn’t
want to go there again, but he didn’t seem to have much choice, since
he couldn’t make himself wake up.
Without trying to, Harry circled the house once, then swooped down into
a room...the same room as before...with the same arm chair, but this time
it was facing a table, and Harry could see who was sitting in it. Voldemort.
His face seemed to be paler than ever, his red eyes were narrowed even
further than usual, and he was laughing. The other men in the room were
laughing, too, but Harry couldn’t make out who they were.
“Yes, it’s better this way,” Voldemort was saying,
his high-pitched voice sounding positively gleeful. “He will think he
is safe now, since he escaped from my clutches. But, one by one, the
people he cares about will disappear, and die, and he will never know
which will be next. Yes, imagine it...he will suffer as I suffered for
thirteen years...until he is alone and friendless, praying for the end...yes...”
The other men in the room agreed with him, though Harry still couldn’t
tell who they were. He thought he recognized one laugh, but his dream
self rejected that idea.
“And then,” Voldemort continued. “Once he is
bereft of everyone he ever cared about, he will get what he is praying
for. Oh, yes, make no doubt about it. Harry Potter has no chance against
me...he never did...and he knows it, too.”
Harry heard agreeing voices, but, try as he
would, he couldn’t remain there. When Voldemort spoke his name, a pain
more intense than he had felt before made him clutch his scar in his dream...which
made him fall off his broom...which made him wake up.
Harry sat upright in bed, still clutching his
scar, but already the pain was fading as he remembered what he had heard.
“...the people he cares about will disappear...bereft of everyone he ever
cared about...” He couldn’t let that happen. He just couldn’t. But
what could he do? Voldemort knew about all his friends, he knew about
Sirius and Professor Lupin, and, thanks to Wormtail, he knew about the
Weasleys. He would want to kill them, anyway, since Mr. Weasley, Bill,
and Charlie were already working to bring him down, too. Percy would
come around soon, Ron said in his letters, but for right now, he still
believed the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, when he said that Voldemort
hadn’t returned. It hurt Harry that Percy didn’t believe him, but that
was yet another thing he couldn’t do anything about.
Harry lay back down on the bed, the pain in his scar almost forgotten.
He didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t stay with the Dursleys forever
- setting aside that he didn’t want to, they would never allow it. And
staying away from those he loved wouldn’t save them, not if Voldemort
was already set on this course. What could he do to help if he was stuck
at the Dursleys, unable to do any magic at all? What could he do to help
if he was right there, though? He had no idea.
Well, there was one thing to do right away.
He had promised Professor Dumbledore to write him if he had any dreams
of Voldemort. Of course, he had had dreams of Voldemort every night since
the third task, but he knew that this one was different. Those were just
nightmares - scary and horrible, but just nightmares. This one was different.
He should write to Sirius, too.
The letter to Dumbledore was easily written, and set aside for when Hedwig
came back. But Harry got stuck halfway through his letter to Sirius.
How could he tell Sirius that he was in danger, all because of him?
“Oh, by the way, godfather, you’re in more danger now than you have been
since you escaped Azkaban, all because you love me.” Yeah, that sounds
Harry threw his quill down and put his head
in his hands. Why me? he thought. All I ever wanted was a
normal childhood, with parents and friends and...normal things. Why did
I have to be The Boy Who Lived, so that even my friends are in awe when
they think about it? He always tried very hard not to think these
things, but sometimes, like now, he just couldn’t help himself.
As Harry sat there, allowing himself a few minutes of despair, he heard
the familiar flap of wings. Then he heard more wings, and more. Hedwig
appeared in his window, swooping in to land on his desk. She was followed
by at least twenty other owls, all bearing packages and letters. Harry
took Hedwig’s first, of course.
It was from Hermione.
Happy Birthday! I hope you don’t
mind that I kept Hedwig an extra day...I wanted to make sure that you
got this on your birthday. I’ve been thinking about giving it to you
for awhile, but wasn’t sure you were ready. But you said you had been
studying a lot, so I guess you are. Promise me you won’t try it without
me, though, I’ve been doing lots of research, and it could very easily
go wrong. We’ll work on it together, OK?
Ron is still being a complete and
utter idiot. Harry, you have to make him see sense. It’s nothing to
him if I write to Viktor, is it?
Or if it is,
Well, I’m not going to spoil your birthday with my problems. I hope
you’ll be able to go to the Burrow, but, at any rate, I’ll
see you on September 1st.
With love from,
Harry stared at the letter, thinking about his
friends. How could he make Ron see sense? Ron never saw what he didn’t
want to see, and it was painfully obvious that he didn’t want to see his
feelings for Hermione. Oh, well, there was nothing he could do about
it now. He turned to her present, which he could feel through the wrapping
was a book. When he opened it, though, he gasped. Animagi: A Guide
to Finding Your Inner Animal. How had Hermione known? Ever since
he had found out that his father was an Animagus, he had wanted to do
it, too. But it was very advanced magic, and he wasn’t sure he was up
to it. If Hermione helped him, though... Wow, Hermione!
Harry tore himself away from the book, and looked
at the other owls perched around the room. Thinking about Aunt Petunia’s
face when she saw the mess in here made him smile, but he set about removing
all the letters and packages so that the owls could leave. He left Pigwidgeon
for last, because he was flitting about the room, instead of waiting for
Harry to remove his burden, like a proper post owl should. Hermes was
there too, with a positively enormous parcel. Hermes was Percy’s owl,
and always reminded Harry of his owner, since he held himself very stiff
and looked very proper. Harry was surprised to see him - usually he was
out delivering yet another letter to Percy’s girlfriend, Penelope. Hermes
hooted softly at Harry, then took off again into the night, making Harry
grin. Percy must have told him to come right back.
The enormous parcel Hermes had
carried contained a large chocolate cake, a blue Weasley sweater (which
was a good thing, because his old one was several inches too short now),
a picture in a frame, and a letter.
Dear Harry, the letter read in a small, firm
hand that Harry didn’t recognize:
Birthday! Mum sends along the cake and sweater, of course, and we all
send our (here a word was heavily scratched out) best wishes. The pictures
are from Fred, George and me. I got them from people around school, and
Fred and George invented the frame to hold more than one. They should
be real inventors, not just of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. No, we shouldn’t.
Yeah, what does she mean, real inventors? You just tap
lightly on the upper right-hand corner of the frame to switch pictures.
You can add more, too, but that’s more complicated, and Fred and George
will have to show you how.
Hope you had a tolerable birthday,
Harry, even with the Dursleys. If I don’t see you before, see you on
the Hogwarts Express.
Harry couldn’t help but grin at the letter, especially at the twins’
interjections. But he could guess what the word was that Ginny had scratched
out. He hoped she wouldn’t mope around after him again this year. Though
she actually hadn’t last year, come to think of it. He had been so busy
with the Triwizard Tournament and watching Cho to realize it then, but
now that he thought about it, he hadn’t really seen much of her last year.
Well, that was a good thing, wasn’t it? She was probably just embarrassed
about her old crush, that’s why she’d scratched out ‘love.’ The rest
of the letter was certainly just plain friendly.
He turned to the picture frame, which currently held a picture of Ron,
Hermione, and himself, flopped down on the ground out by the lake at Hogwarts.
He remembered when it was taken, after a particularly grueling Transfiguration
class. Dean Thomas, another Gryffindor friend of theirs, had taken it,
saying that he wanted to prove that even Hermione was overwhelmed sometimes.
Harry grinned, and tapped the upper right-hand corner of the frame. Most
of the rest of the pictures were also of Ron, Hermione, and himself, but
there was one with all of the Weasleys outside their house, waving at
him. It had obviously been taken this summer, because Ron was even taller
than he remembered, and everyone, though waving furiously, looked a little
sad and worried. He knew what Aunt Petunia had meant about everyone being
happy but also looking haunted. Harry didn’t want to see the Weasleys
like that. He flipped to the last picture quickly.
This one, Harry didn’t remember being taken. It was of Ron and himself
at the Yule Ball last year, sitting at a table and talking. Their dates
for the ball, Parvati and Padma Patil, weren’t in the picture, which,
considering how mad the Patils had been at them, was probably a good thing.
He and Ron were laughing, so they couldn’t have been talking about Hermione
or Hagrid, two things they had talked a lot about that evening. Behind
them were the dancers, including Hermione and Viktor Krum, so it was a
good thing Ron wasn’t looking around. Fred and Angelina were dancing,
too, and so were Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall, and poor
Ginny and Neville, with Ginny wincing at every other step as Neville stepped
on her feet. Remembering how carefree and happy they had been at the
ball, and how many of the people in the picture were now in grave danger,
Harry flipped the picture frame again, back to the first picture.
Trying not to think about it, Harry turned to Ron’s letter and parcel.
I have the best birthday present
ever - Dumbledore says you can come here for the last week of the summer!
I’m going to ask Hermione, too. Hopefully she can tear herself away from
Vicky for that long.
Things are still weird here. I’m still doing my “internship” at dad’s
office - it’s a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. Muggles
do come up with some useful things. Like your real birthday present -
we’ve gotta think of some ways to get Malfoy with this!
Well, I’ll see you soon. I can’t
Harry tore open the wrapping on Ron’s gift to reveal a water gun. He
had to grin, imagining Draco Malfoy’s face when they hit him with a stream
of water without using a wand. Ron was right, there were definite possibilities
here. But the best news of all was that he could go to the Burrow. Maybe
he could even help Ron out with his “internship” at the Ministry. In
reality, Ron was helping his dad’s assistant to run the Misuse of Muggle
Artifacts office while Mr. Weasley did things for Dumbledore. Ron had
been enormously flattered when his dad asked him for help, even though
he had complained again about his dad working in the most boring office.
Harry was glad that it was turning out better than he had thought it would.
Harry put down the water gun, and set about opening the rest of his presents.
Hagrid had sent him some fudge, which was actually good, so Harry suspected
that maybe Madame Maxim had had a hand in making it (Hagrid mentioned
he was still with her in the letter attached to the fudge).
Colin Creevey gave him a picture, too, and Harry could certainly understand
why he hadn’t given it to Ginny for her present. It was a picture of
the Gryffindor vs. Ravenclaw match from Harry’s third year, when Malfoy
and his goons dressed up as dementors to try to scare Harry and sabotage
the match. Harry had conjured a wonderful Patronus to charge down the
“dementors,” so the picture was of the four Slytherins down on the ground,
tangled in their cloaks and obviously out of it.
Everyone, from Professor Lupin to Neville, sent him wonderful presents,
but nothing compared to what Sirius sent him. It was a set of letters
that his dad had written to Sirius - nothing earth shattering in importance,
but they were letters that his dad had written, and it was the best birthday
present Harry had ever gotten. He settled down to read them, forgetting,
for the moment, about his dream and all that it meant.